Scott whacks Dems on economy in livestream address

Phil Scott

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. Photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

Editor’s note: Erin Mansfield and Elizabeth Hewitt contributed to this report.

While other candidates for governor issued statements to the media in response to Gov. Peter Shumlin’s State of the State address Thursday, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott reached out to digital natives in a livestreamed speech to supporters (and issued a comment to the press).

Scott, a Republican candidate for governor, took a page from his campaign speech and spoke directly into the camera for about 10 minutes and then engaged in a question and answer session with Yvonne Garand at his campaign headquarters in Middlesex.

The livestream was held at the same time as Donald Trump’s rally in Burlington. State Republicans aggressively distanced themselves from the New York City candidate for president who they have described as a “bully and a bigot.”

The lieutenant governor briefly outlined his personal history and talked about his “Everyday Jobs Tour” before he launched into his stance on issues.

Scott underscored his own platform for revitalizing the economy instead of countering Shumlin’s speech directly, which was a rundown on the governor’s accomplishments and did not broadly address economic issues the state faces.

Scott said he would rebuild the manufacturing sector, which employs about 10 percent of the state’s workforce and pays 31 percent higher than the average wage. He ticked off a list of obstacles for manufacturers, including high electricity costs, high taxes and an unpredictable regulatory environment, that he would address. In addition, Scott would restore a 30 percent research and development tax break for manufacturing companies.

The Legislature’s interest in a carbon tax, Scott said, would drive away businesses from the state.

“It has the same feeling as the single payer conversation, which was allowed to continue for too long,” Scott said. He described the carbon tax as a distraction from lawmakers’ focus on the state’s fiscal foundation. “We need to stop it in its tracks now,” Scott said.

The state has enjoyed significant benefits from the renewable energy industry and captive insurance, he said. “Imagine if we had a governor’s office that treated every sector in the same way,” Scott said.

He pointed to the state’s stagnating population as an issue he would address head on. Scott said he wants to encourage 5,000 people in the 25 to 40 age group a year to move to the state with targeted investments in programs for working families and first-time homebuyers.

Scott criticized the Legislature and the governor for increasing the state budget too quickly. “When they say balance the budget, what they’re doing is just raising taxes,” he said. “Last year they raised taxes and spent more money.”

The state must keep budget growth in check, he said. “I would build budget by looking at what the growth was last year, and I won’t sign a budget that grows faster than the previous year,” Scott said.

Response from Lisman, Minter and Dunne

Bruce Lisman

Bruce Lisman. Photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

Bruce Lisman, a former Bear Stearns executive who is running against Scott for the Republican nomination, said in a statement that Shumlin “did his best” to “put a positive spin” on the changes to education and healthcare that have happened under his watch.

“But Vermonters know the reality is different, because they see it in their own lives,” Lisman wrote. He challenged Shumlin’s record on job creation, and criticized Act 46.

Matt Dunne, a Google executive who is seeking the Democratic nomination to replace Shumlin, listened to Shumlin’s speech in the lobby in front of the entrance to the House.

“I think what Gov. Shumlin has outlined is what he has made his signature, which is coming out with bold positions particularly on social issues,” Dunne said. He cited Shumlin’s proposals on divestment and marijuana legalization.

Matt Dunne

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne speaks at the Digger Dialogue. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

Dunne said the caps included in the Act 46 education law were a “distraction” and said he was glad the governor wants to repeal or delay them.

Sue Minter, the former secretary of the Agency of Transportation, is running against Dunne for the Democratic nomination for governor. She said she agrees with the governor’s decision to highlight economic development in his speech, nodding to his Step Up proposal that would provide one semester of college education to low-income Vermonters.

“As we grow the economy, we have to understand how the economy is supporting our working families,” Minter said.

Sue Minter

Sue Minter. Photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

Meanwhile, Minter said that she stays firm on her position on marijuana legalization, emphasizing the need for a system of regulation, an education and prevention component, and driver safety.

With regard to Shumlin’s proposal to limit the number of opiate painkillers doctors can prescribe for minor procedures, Minter said she is “cautious about telling doctors what they can and cannot do” but that she recognizes “that our opiate challenge is huge.”

Democratic candidates for Lieutenant Governor react

Sen. David Zuckerman, D/P-Chittenden, is seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. He called for marijuana legalization in 2015 and introduced a bill that no Senate committee took testimony on.

Zuckerman said he generally supports Shumlin’s proposal to legalize marijuana, but the main difference is that Zuckerman wants marijuana edibles to be legalized at some point, and Shumlin said they should remain illegal “at first.”

Zuckerman four of the five caveats that Shumlin said need to be included in a legalization bill are in his bill: keeping marijuana from minors, funding law enforcement to keep adults from driving under the influence, taxing marijuana at a low enough rate to wipe out the black market, and using revenue to prevent addiction.

He said marijuana edibles are “a topic we need to discuss. Whether it’s delaying it or prohibiting it entirely, that’s up for discussion. I do think if we’re talking about bringing an underground economy above ground and regulating it properly, we might just be kicking the can down the road on that one.”

Zuckerman described four main ideas for directing revenue from marijuana legalization: treating opiate addiction, funding local law enforcement, funding higher education, and a creating special account to fund capital projects. He said the state should not depend on marijuana revenue to fund regular operations.

Zuckerman called himself one of the leaders in the movement who suggested to Bill McKibben, the founder of, that the state divest its own funds.  “There’s no moral or economic value to remaining invested in (fossil fuels),” he said.

Rep. Kesha Ram, D-Burlington, who is running against Zuckerman for the Democratic nomination, said she thought Shumlin’s address was “far-reaching.” She supports many of his proposals but said he did not spend enough time talking about property taxes.

Ram said she supports his call to divest state pension funds from the coal industry and his plan to legalize marijuana with five caveats that include putting revenue toward addiction treatment and keeping marijuana away from minors.

Ram recently put in a request for drafting a bill on divestment from coal, and had “no idea that the governor was going to lend his support to that,” she said. With regard to marijuana, she said, “It’s time to have that conversation.”

Anne Galloway

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18 Comments on "Scott whacks Dems on economy in livestream address"


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William Geller
9 months 18 days ago

with the lower cost of natural gas and other fuels I would think that Vermont should be able to reduce electricity charges. When will we start hearing any reports on why this is not happening ?????

Wendy Wilton
9 months 18 days ago
VT’s cost for electricity will continue to soar as we add more renewable energy to our portfolio according to the plan passed by the legislature and signed by Shumlin years ago. It is expensive to produce energy from these sources, even with the subsidies. Also, these are not robust, steady sources of power. The smartest thing the state could do would be to develop a gas power plant to provide base load power to offset the variability of renewables and complement the hydro we buy from Canada. That could result in future savings in energy cost increases. Otherwise, we will… Read more »
Kathleen Keenan
9 months 18 days ago

The actual price of gas in Vermont should be really looked at. All of the funds we have rolled into our rates

Jay Eshelman
9 months 18 days ago
Re: “Scott said he would rebuild the manufacturing sector, which employs about 10 percent of the state’s workforce and pays 31 percent higher than the average wage.” A Vermont school teacher earns on average about $30 per hour, not counting ‘Cadillac’ healthcare and retirement benefits. As a Vermont manufacturer, I can’t come close to paying that much as an average manufacturing wage, let alone pay 31% more than that. And the teacher’s union is asking for a 2.8% salary increase and 8% increase in benefits. John McClaughry reported: ” Vermont ranks eighth in pretax wage equivalent of the welfare benefit… Read more »
Paul Richards
9 months 15 days ago
“A Vermont school teacher earns on average about $30 per hour, not counting ‘Cadillac’ healthcare and retirement benefits. As a Vermont manufacturer, I can’t come close to paying that much as an average manufacturing wage, let alone pay 31% more than that.” Have no fear Jay. After bernie and the rest of the liberals get elected, public sector unions will be expanded to the maximum. Anyone remotely close to providing labor for the benefit of the state will be unionized. Furthermore, manufacturing businesses will be forced into unionizing their workers so, you see; everyone will be happy and you WILL… Read more »
Keith Stern
9 months 18 days ago

I’m still hearing the same old rhetoric and no specifics on how Vermont will become more affordable and the business climate will get better.

Jay Eshelman
9 months 18 days ago
As I mentioned in a recent ‘Commentary’ and pointed out in a recent ‘Join the Discussion’ remark. Our politicians should start with ‘tuitioned’ School Choice vouchers for all Vermont parents. 1. Education costs and commensurate property and other taxes will begin to decrease. 2. Students will have the opportunity to attend schools that meet their individual needs and, therefore, be better educated….translating into a better trained workforce. 3. Families will come to Vermont to take advantage of education choice instead of leaving Vermont because of a stifling State School bureaucratic monopoly. 4. As property taxes and other taxes decrease, property… Read more »
Thomas Gauthier
9 months 18 days ago
Looking into the details. 1. The police force has swelled faster than the population rate; oh wait a second, our population is declining so why would we need more police officers? 2. Why is Vermont not instituting tolls on our interstate and connector highways, those tolls would help fund our expensive road systems and with proper equipment (transponders; think ezpass); allow the state to not strangle the locals with these tolls and pass them onto the persons traveling through Vermont. Stop forcing the residents to foot the bill for persons passing through our state; let those who use our roads… Read more »
Kathy Nelson
9 months 18 days ago

It’s a sad state of affairs in the democratic party.

tom burke
9 months 18 days ago

All the candidates offer sizzle and no steak. No specifics. I will work on …. How about declaring some goals? e.g; I will meet with GMP, BED, and others . and reduce electricity costs by 40% for business…or I will copy New York’s open for business campaign here in VT.

Doug Hoffer
9 months 18 days ago
We all want to improve the economy, including manufacturing. But with all due respect to Lt Governor Scott, Vermont is not an outlier in this area. Here are some facts. First, all but six states have lost manufacturing jobs since 1990. The northeast has been especially hard hit, but Vermont has fared better than all the other states in the northeast. Percent change in manufacturing jobs, 1990 – 2015 and national rank (BLS, CES) -27.9% VT 24 -29.2% NH 27 -44.7% ME 43 -45.5% CT 45 -46.9% MA 46 -53.1% NY 49 -55.2% RI 50 If Vermont state policies were… Read more »
Rita Pitkin
9 months 18 days ago

Thank you Mr. Hoffer. Key words: HONEST CONVERSATION. Would be nice.

Steve McKenzie
9 months 17 days ago
I completely agree a factual conversation regarding economic development issues is long overdue and critically important, starting with the Governor’s repetitive citing of the 3.7% state unemployment rate (“U3”), and the claim of adding “…17,600 new jobs in the last five years…”. From the US Bureau of Labor Statistics ( VT Labor Force – Employment = Unemployed Unemp Rate Oct-10 359,116 337,752 21,364 5.9% Oct-15 345,250 332,468 12,782 3.7% Change (13,866) (5,284) (8,582) -2.2% -3.9% -1.6% -40.2% -37.3% With a flat state population over the period, the labor force has decreased by nearly 14,000? The ‘why’s’ behind that drop are… Read more »
Doug Hoffer
9 months 16 days ago
All good questions. First, I agree that U-6 is a better measure of labor underutilization. But here too, Vermont looks comparatively good. At 8.4% Vermont is tied with New Hampshire for the lowest in New England and tied for 9th best in the entire country. Second, “employment” includes self-employment, which is always volatile in challenging times. After losing a job, some folks attempt self-employment to bring money in while awaiting a new job. As job opportunities increase, many self-employed take jobs. This makes sense for most because self-employment is not always as great as we sometimes imagine. For example, you… Read more »
Mark Keefe
9 months 16 days ago

On 1/4/16 in Digger Mr. Lisman wrote “We need to coordinate our economic and workforce development efforts across the state so we are using our resources most effectively and providing better support to both employers and employees.” Based on your last paragraph; it would appear you are both saying the same thing. Maybe there is some common ground on this issue between you two.

John Grady
9 months 18 days ago
Become a right to work state. Create The Bank of Vermont. Reduce school spending over 50% Overhaul Act 250 so it’s a 90 day process. Have state owned enterprises like a prefab housing plant to increase the supply of energy efficient work force housing. Create a state owned supply warehouse for towns and government agencies to buy supplies from. The first step is for people to accept the fact they have been brainwashed and indoctrinated into The American Culture threw propaganda and break their minds free of the prisoner like mentality they have become institutionalized into. People are scared to… Read more »
Paul Richards
9 months 15 days ago

“Become a right to work state.
Create The Bank of Vermont.
Reduce school spending over 50%
Overhaul Act 250 so it’s a 90 day process.”
I can agree with that. After that not so much but you got off to a great start!

John Grady
9 months 15 days ago
#5 housing #6 supply warehouse The words {state owned} does sound scary but unlike monopoly government they would have to sell to customers who wouldn’t have to buy from them. The current good old boys running the state would need to be cleaned out because it’s a given if they where in charge of handing out political patronage jobs unqualified people would be handed management positions based on who they know, not what they know. Too many of today’s housing developments are high cost per unit so not affordable, they are massively subsidized by taxpayers at over $200,000 per… Read more »
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